Everything You Need to Know to Sound Smart About Cryptocurrencies
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"The potential rewards of cryptocurrency investing are inarguably high... but the risks are just as steep."

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6. How much should you invest?

Only what you can afford to lose. The potential rewards of cryptocurrency investing are inarguably high. For example, Bitcoin went from about $800 in January 2017 to $19,000 within a year, according to crypto-news site CoinDesk.

But the risks are just as steep. Consider Bitcoin’s drop the week before Christmas, from around $19,000 on December 18 to under $14,000 on the 22nd. Though it recovered to more than $17,000 on January 6, it’d fallen again to about $13,000 by January 11. That kind of volatility should be limited to a small portion of your portfolio—the part you’d be okay never seeing again.

7. How do you invest in cryptocurrency?

You can directly purchase digital currencies via exchanges like Coinbase and Bitstamp. You can also try connecting directly with individual sellers through LocalBitcoins.com. (Check out Buy Bitcoin Worldwide to see other options.)

Or you can go the fund route with Bitwise HOLD 10 Private Index Fund if your income and net worth qualify you as an “accredited investor.” Soon, you may be able to invest in a cryptocurrency through an exchange-traded fund (ETF). Both Cboe Global Market and the New York Stock Exchange have filed to list cryptocurrency-related ETFs.

Another option: initial coin offerings, which are like initial public offerings for debuting cryptocurrencies—but with more risk.

8. How do you store Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies?

In your digital wallet. Many cryptocurrency exchanges offer a wallet you can connect to your regular bank account. You can also find other apps, like Bither, ArcBit and Green Address, that focus on Bitcoin storage. (Coinbase will store the cryptocurrencies you purchase through the platform for you.)

For added security, you can consider a hardware wallet like the Bitcoin options from Trezor, Digital Bitbox and KeepKey. These flashdrive-looking devices allow you to take your cryptocurrency offline and protect it from vulnerabilities inherent with the web.

9. Where can you spend cryptocurrencies?

The list of businesses that accept such payments is limited, but growing. It includes Overstock.com, Subway, Microsoft and Bloomberg.com, among others. (See an extensive list on 99bitcoins.com).

You can also be creative and barter to put your cryptocurrency to practical use. For example, the first real-world Bitcoin transaction, according to popular Internet lore, was in 2010, when programmer Laszlo Hanyecz posted in a forum that he’d give 10,000 bitcoins (now worth well over $100 million) to anyone who brought him pizza. Someone took the offer and paid $25 for two Papa John’s pizzas to be delivered to Hanyecz.

10. Is all this for real?

No doubt, all this cryptocurrency stuff sounds like it’s straight out of a sci-fi story. But we are living in the future. Remember that once not too long ago, people were balking at the idea of e-mail, e-commerce and social media. And companies that were slow to adopt advancing technologies went the way of the Dodo. (Hey, Blockbuster and Borders.)

The bottom line is: Bitcoin and its ilk are increasingly popular investments, as well as forms of payment—and in some way, cryptocurrency is here to stay. Whether you literally buy into it or not is up to you and your risk tolerance.

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